Veterans Day is November 11 and honors all those who have served this country as members of the military. It began as Armistice Day, marking the end of the Great War (WWI). Eventually, it became a national holiday and was later renamed Veterans Day by President Nixon in 1971 to honor veterans of all wars and conflicts. (Not to be confused with Memorial Day which recognizes those who have lost their lives in the service of the nation.)
Even if you don’t personally know any veterans, you have benefited from the service of the military and the freedoms they provide. It’s important to acknowledge the sacrifice of military servicemen and their families each and every day to protect us. We have 12 ideas for ways to honor veterans this Veterans Day.
1. Attend a Veterans Event
"We can't all be heroes; someone has to sit on the curb and clap as they go by."Roy Rogers
Each Veterans Day, organizations and the government honor veterans with appreciation events. In some areas, there may be a parade, a flag service, a pancake breakfast, or other types of community events. Not only do these events express appreciation for veteran service, but they can also be a fun way to connect with your community.
2. Make a donation
If your schedule or location makes attending a Veterans event difficult, there are still ways to honor veterans right where you are with a meaningful donation. There are so many incredible organizations that have made it their mission to provide funding and resources for veterans during and after their service.
Some organizations accepting donations include:
- TAPS (Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors): provides peer support and grief resources for those who have lost a loved one in military service
- Folds of Honor: provides educational scholarships for children of fallen and disabled servicemen
- Blue Star Families: connects military families with their community through local organizations and resources
- USO (United Service Organization): creates programs, entertainment, and support for military service members and their families
- Operation Gratitude: a nonprofit that organizes care packages and other forms of gratitude for deployed troops, veterans, and their families.
- Local VA (Veterans Assistance): local hospitals and veteran centers may be in need of financial or other donations or support
You might also find businesses or organizations in your area that are donating portions of their profits to veterans, making a donation an easy part of your daily purchasing.
3. Learn about and display a flag
Do you have an American flag? Now is the perfect time to display one. Local organizations might have a flag program where you “rent” a flag for special occasions such as Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Veterans Day, and they'll place it in your yard and collect it at the end of the day.
You can also purchase your own American flag and learn about proper flag displays from the U.S. Flag Code.
4. Ask & Listen
One of the most powerful things you can do this Veterans Day is to simply listen to a service member. If you know someone who has served this country, Veterans Day is the perfect time to reach out to them. Ask them about their service, what they learned, and what they wish people knew about military service.
5. Send a card or letter of appreciation
Veterans Day is essentially about gratitude. We take this day to recognize what veterans have done for us, so sending your written gratitude is an excellent way to honor veterans. If you know a veteran in your family or community, write them a letter or have your children help create a card or drawing for them. Organize a group ecard with Kudoboard, where your entire family, work team, or neighborhood can share their appreciation with a veteran electronically.
If you don’t know any veterans, you can still write letters of appreciation and send them to your local VA center or hospital.
6. Connect with the VA program
The Veterans Assistance Program provides resources of all kinds for veterans and their families. Support includes medical services, counseling, job training and assistance, social events, veteran discounts from moving companies, and more. There will be some type of veteran outreach in your area, and you can find locations and programs near you here. Your local VA hospital or office will have ideas for volunteer work, donations, and further outreach. VA locations will also have information about Veterans Day events.
7. Take a veteran to a national park
National Parks are free for veterans on Veterans Day, so it’s a great time to take your favorite veteran to see something beautiful and enjoy the great outdoors. In fact, hundreds of businesses and organizations offer freebies and discounts for service members for Veterans Day. They deserve so much more than a free meal or a discount on shoes, but all veterans should at least take advantage of this small appreciation.
8. Give a moment of silence at 11 am
Time is truly the most precious gift, especially in today’s distracted world. Anyone anywhere can honor veterans with a moment of silence at 11 am on November 11th for Veterans Day. Take that time to quietly think about everything sacrificed by our military and their family members, particularly those who came home with physical and mental injuries. It’s the least we can do.
9. Teach others about veterans & military service
It is our obligation to teach the rising generations about the service and sacrifice of our brave military. Have a discussion with your family about what a veteran is, what they do for us, and why we honor them. Encourage your child’s teacher to make note of Veterans Day in their classroom. Share how you feel about veterans with your work team, or share a video about veterans on your social media channels. It’s an easy and free way to honor veterans on this special day.
10. Create a care package
Deployed military are sacrificing so much to travel far from their families in the service of this country. Care packages are a thoughtful way to express your gratitude and remind them of the love at home. You can send care packages through Operation Gratitude or Packages From Home, or you can find curated packages through companies like Stack Up.
11. Represent with red poppies
Red poppies have become symbolic of the sacrifice of veterans, and they are traditionally worn and placed on graves and memorials for Memorial Day and Veterans Day. You can purchase a veteran-made red poppy to wear on your clothing for Veterans Day, make your own, or place red poppies on a grave or at your workplace in remembrance of brave veterans throughout American history.
12. Support veteran-owned business
Veterans can face significant challenges when they return home, and VA programs exist to help them acclimate and succeed. One way we can honor and support them is to patronize veteran-owned businesses. Check with your local chamber of commerce to find any veteran-owned businesses in your community, then support them by making a purchase, advertising for them, and committing to helping them throughout the year.
Say Thank You
Veterans Day is about recognition and appreciation for the service of our selfless military, past and present. We take this day to honor and thank them. These ideas will help you honor veterans, even if you only have a few minutes. And really—it’s the least we can do for all they’ve given us. Thank you, veterans.